Eduardo Verastegui has been a model, a musician, a producer, and an actor. Known for his musical success and his celebrity status in Mexico, the star of 2006’s Bella plays a peace-keeping rebel in the upcoming film For Greater Glory. The movie, which has already released in his native Mexico to great fanfare, chronicles the Cristero war of the 1920’s. Starring alongside Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, and Peter O’Toole, he joins in a battle for religious freedom in the wake of the government’s decision to persecute the public practice of Catholicism. Verastegui is a practicing Catholic himself, and his faith has become a major part of his work. This film has been especially meaningful to him, and he was kind enough to talk to Beliefnet’s Stephen Russ about the movie, his life, and the impact he hopes to have on those around him.
You are very picky about film roles you choose because of your faith. What drew you to this movie?
Let me go way back. I’m from Mexico, I moved to LA right when I was turning 28. After ten years of working really hard in music, film, and television I realized that I was not assuming the responsibilities that I had to assume as an actor. Sometimes you forget that whatever project you are involved in, whether you like it or not, it’s going to affect how people think, how they live, how they behave, how they dream, because media in general, and film and television, they have the power to touch people’s hearts and change their minds. Most young people in America spend more than eight hours in front of the media. Somebody told me that the statistics for average percentage between parents and children having meaningful conversations is only three to six minutes a day, but in front of the media more than 8 hours a day. So we know who is educating the youth – it’s the media. Now there’s nothing wrong with the media, it’s just a means, it’s how you use it that makes the difference. In my opinion I was poisoning our society by the projects I was involved with. Out of ignorance I ended up doing things that right now I don’t feel proud of and wish I could go back and redo, but I can’t.
When I turned 28 I realized all these things that I’m sharing with you, I made a promise to God that I would never use my talents again to do anything that would offend my faith, my family, or my Latino culture. I discovered that Latinos today have been stereotyped in a very negative way in the media. The bandito, the criminal, the gang member, etc., very few times do you see the Latino having an opportunity to be a hero. But there are real heroes, like in this movie For Greater Glory Anacleto Gonzalez Flores is a family man, a man of faith, a man of character, a peaceful man who was called the Mexican Gandhi because he wasn’t afraid to use to his talents to serve and to make a difference. He wasn’t afraid to fight for something bigger than himself to the point that if he has to give his life he will, and he did, he sacrificed everything to protect religious freedom and he became a martyr. That’s why I was so inspired by him, he’s my true inspirational hero role model because of what he did with his talents, with his life, and the last words that came out of his mouth were “Viva Christo Rey” (“long live Christ the King”) in real life. So that’s why I think it’s very important, knowing how much media influences what people think, especially knowing how much youth have this tendency to imitate what they see in film and in television, we copy and we behave in the same way. You are what you read, what you see, who you hang out with, that’s why right now I choose carefully. Anything I do or produce, it has to have enough ingredients promoting truth, beauty and goodness.
Where you familiar with the war and your character prior to seeing the screenplay?
When I got the script I knew about this war and this character, but only a few years before. Before that I didn’t know anything. I was completely ignorant about the topic. I didn’t know about the Christeros war, I didn’t know about this dark period of Mexico in the 1920s when religious persecution happened and more than 200,000 people died in a horrible way because of this war. I did not know anything about this because in public school they didn’t teach me [about it]. I felt embarrassed, like I didn’t know about my own history… then I discovered that most of the people in Mexico didn’t know about this topic and I discovered that one of the reasons why it is not taught in public schools… is that we don’t feel proud of what happened in Mexico. We always like to celebrate the beautiful things; our culture, our music, our food, but not this horrible internal war between the government and the church. The second reason is [that] it’s such a delicate thing that they want to bury this wound.